More on Hereford Academy

Reduced A-Level choices for everyone

Hereford City has an excellent 6th form college, which is in the top five in the country.

Because it takes a large number of students from all over Hereford and beyond, the college is able to offer students an impressive array of subject options.

Despite this, the Church wants to set up its own sixth form at the proposed academy. This can only mean fewer students at Hereford 6th form college, with a possible reduction in the range of subjects available to all the young people across the area.

It is hard to see how the Church’s plan would benefit anyone but themselves.

Loss of Accountability

Wyebridge Sports College is accountable to the Local Authority and to parents. There are 4 governors appointed by the authority, and 7 governors elected by parents. This would change under an academy.

C of E Academies have a majority of governors appointed by the Church, with a requirement for only 1 token governor each to represent the local authority and parents.

Academies are not bound by the 1944 Education Act, or any of the following Education Acts; they are not classed as state schools, despite being paid for by the tax payer. The body of law that protects the rights of children and parents does not apply to academies. As a result, CofE academies are not accountable to anyone but themselves. The academy would be controlled by religious interests alone.

Christian Ethos Myth

Researchers at the National Foundation for Education Research told MPs:

“On the basis of our research, looking exclusively at achievement, there is not any evidence at all to suggest really that increasing the number of faith schools will improve the level of achievement … Interestingly, you can hypothesise that if they do have better ethos and better behaviour, and so on, that would lead to better achievement, but we did not find any evidence that that is so.”

John Marks, of the Civitas research institute: “The churches have got plenty of underperforming schools,”

“By 14 there are large numbers of church as well as local education authority schools where pupils are three or more years behind in English and mathematics.”

Church of England’s Push for Expansion

The CofE control over a fifth of all tax-payer funded schools. The Church’s current expansion scheme is to extend control over 100 more state secondary schools under the government’s City Academy initiative.

The Church already run one of Hereford’s secondary schools; another is run by the Catholic Church. If the Church succeeds in taking over another, only two will remain non-biased community schools.

Hereford Church of England Diocese say “We expect the health specialism to be developed so that it can include the dimensions of social, community and spiritual health”.

Their document tells us “The church centrally believes this is a major way it can support the extension of the Kingdom of God”.

Church School Myth

It is a myth that Church Schools achieve better results than other schools. In fact, Church Schools do no better than other schools with similar intakes. It is only because the Church has more schools in affluent areas that their results give the illusion of outperforming the average.

The proportion of children receiving free school meals is used to calculate deprivation.

The Statistical Directorate of the National Assembly for Wales concluded:

“once the different levels of free school meal entitlement are taken into account, the differences in GCSE/GNVQ examination performance and absenteeism [between Church and other schools] were not statistically significant.”

Negotiations

Marches Secularists are engaging with The Hereford Diocese to try and negotiate a set of ethical standards to be adopted by the church for the academy.

These would include measures to prevent indoctrination, an even-handed approach to withdrawal from acts of worship, and proper planning of religious events to minimise distress to others.

Included in the package would need to be adequate accountability and independent oversight, including retaining 7 parent governors on the governing body.

Depending on whether these negotiations are successful, and what the people of Hereford want, Marches Secularists will decide whether or not to challenge the takeover.

Quotes

[Note: The Academies programme is supported by both major political parties.]

“If ever there was a Government policy characterised by political spin rather than substantiated evidence, it is the academies programme”.
Steve Sinnott,
General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers

“Ten years after Tony Blair made us that promise [that his priorities were Education, Education, Education] we are looking at the wreckage of a failed and discredited policy.”
Francis Beckett,
Author of The Great City Academy Fraud

Despite the Government’s rhetoric, The House of Commons Select Committee who examined the matter issued a report stating that there is no reason to suppose that academies were going to raise standards of education.

The “design of some academies is not practical for modern teaching and learning”.
The Government’s consultants, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Threat to GCSE results

The West London Academy produced worse GCSE results than its predecessor, despite the academy excluding a huge number of its worst pupils.

Ofsted said, after the academy’s first inspection ‘the visit has raised serious concerns about the standard of education provided by the academy’. Ofsted’s second report said that achievement standards were ‘inadequate’.

In the 2004 GCSE results, 11 academies were listed. Five showed no improvement and one had the second worst results in England.

In the 2005 league tables for 14 year olds, nine of the eleven academies were in the bottom 200 schools in England.

It is a myth that academies naturally do better than the schools they replace. At least one academy has failed its Ofsted inspection altogether and was in special measures.

In 2006 half of the academies were named among the worst-performing schools in England based on GCSE results.

Last year, the number of pupils gaining 5 GCSE s at A* to C (including Maths and English) in CofE Academies was less than half the number achieved by pupils in normal schools.

Wyebridge doing well

Ofsted say that the existing college “is providing a sound quality of education and is improving thanks to good leadership at every level. The key reason for improvements in the behaviour, attendance and attainment of students can be traced to a new and common team spirit amongst staff, modelled well by the leadership team and driven by good head teacher leadership”.

The inspector’s notes state “We were particularly struck by the consistent message you all gave about how much better the school is now, compared to a couple of years ago. We agree and think that the school is doing a sound job in giving you a secure education that will serve you well in the future.”

The school achieved specialist status last year, and is part of Herefordshire Excellence Cluster.

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